Manufacturer Fired Engineer After He Filed a Discrimination Charge, Federal Agency Charged
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Turner Machine Company will pay $80,000 and furnish other significant equitable relief to resolve a lawsuit for retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Ken Woodard was hired by Turner in June 2011, and he worked as a mechanical engineer at Turner Machine's Smyrna, Tenn., facility. Problems began for Woodard when he voiced concerns about mandatory employee meetings called "huddles," which occurred every morning. At the huddles, employees would discuss milestones occurring in their personal lives including their religious affiliations and church activities. Woodard opposed this practice, and subsequently filed a discrimination charge. The charge with the EEOC was resolved through an informal mediation process, but Turner Machine later retaliated against Woodard by firing him, the EEOC said.
This type of alleged workplace misconduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Turner Machine Company, Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-01115) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. After filing suit, EEOC and Turner Machine worked together to quickly resolve this matter without the need for costly discovery or lengthy litigation.
Besides the monetary relief, the four-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Kevin H. Sharp, requires that Turner Machine maintain a written policy prohibiting future discrimination in the workplace, including retaliation. To further ensure the effective implementation of the anti-discrimination policy, Turner Machine will also conduct training on Title VII for its employees. The decree also requires that Turner Machine post in its facility a notice containing the terms of this settlement.
"Employers have a duty under the law to ensure that their work environment is free of retaliation," said Faye Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC's Memphis District Office. "Employers should never penalize employees for exercising their rights. We commend Turner Machine for moving quickly to rectify this matter and to ensure that such conduct does not recur."
Turner Machine Company, based in Smyrna, employs 30-40 people. According to company information, Turner is a manufacturing firm and custom machine builder whose principal products are automated machines for automobile assembly lines.
The Memphis District Office of the EEOC oversees Tennessee, Arkansas, and parts of Northern Mississippi.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the website at www.eeoc.gov.